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Wednesday, 8 June 1994
Page: 1544

Senator TAMBLING (6.54 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

This report focuses on the progress of 25 area strategies throughout the country and describes the main achievement, if we can call it that, of each strategy in 1992-93 against program objectives for each state and territory. These 25 areas which were originally proposed by the states are very different in nature, ranging from new or upgrading existing road, water, sewerage, infrastructure. Others involved the redevelopment of industrial sites, obsolete port, rail and industrial land, the revitalisation of inner city living, housing, redevelopment and new open space areas. The report acknowledges:

. . . that overall progress in 92/93 was less than anticipated but that action has been taken regarding the delays and progress since then, and indicates that 93/94 evaluation should show a marked increase in levels of activities.

At the Senate estimates hearing in September 1993 and, I remind honourable senators, well into the year following the program, a number of concerns were expressed by the department. At this time, concerns were expressed to the committee by departmental officers that milestones were not spelt out adequately, that they were inadequate in their reporting of back data and that some of these agreements had to be revised due to the lack of tight planning in their initial preparation.

  When I read this report and see that 18 out of the 25 projects undertaken have experienced some sort of delay, it merely highlights this government's mismanagement of the original agreement negotiations. I remind the Senate that the building better cities program, when it was originally initiated, was the fillip of the Labor Party leading into a federal election campaign. There were many carrots put forward at that time, and many of these projects.

Senator Collins —You publicly said Darwin would get no benefit out of it. You were millions of dollars out, as it happens.

Senator TAMBLING —Senator Collins should sit down and listen to his own stupid criticisms. This is a report to his government that says 18 out of 25 projects are not doing what they should be doing.

Senator Collins —You were wrong, as usual.

Senator TAMBLING —Senator Collins should listen to what the officers of the department said to Estimates Committee C when they appeared before it. A departmental officer said:

The Commonwealth considered these and the states were very keen to get some of these things signed up and have the money flowing. With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and say that we did not really have the planning as tightly as we should have and that required us to go back and revise some of these agreements, subsequently, which we have done.

Eighteen out of 25 projects are on the backburner; they are on the lists that do not get anywhere. It will be very interesting to see the extent of this and the anticipated progress. Senator Collins wants to crow about this issue but he needs to go back and do a bit of revision and homework in this area.

  This report is so sketchy, particularly when it comes a full 12 months after the end of the reporting period. The most common word that is used in this report—it appears on almost every page—is the word `delay'. The words `milestones are not being met', `strategy has been minimal' and `behind schedule' also appear time and time again. It is a report of a program that was obviously ill-conceived, poorly administered and carried out through the basis of an election campaign. Even today, it still needs to be looked at in hindsight.

  The hundreds of millions of dollars that were committed to this project as a carrot at election time and without proper planning and assessment show that it was doomed to get this sort of criticism. It is incumbent on the Senate to look seriously at this matter again, in the estimates and when the next report is due.